Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man...

This past weekend our preschoolers learned about Zacchaeus as we started a new unit entitledGod Owns Everything.They learned that not only did Zacchaeus climb a tree, but more importantly, Jesus changed his heart. The story highlighted that Zacchaeus was very wealthy, and that he loved money and wealth more than God and others. Jesus helped Zacchaeus see his sin, and the preschoolers learned that Jesus can help them see their sin too. To apply this story to preschoolers, the teachers explained how when children say “MINE” and don’t want to share, they are not remembering that God owns everything and God wants us to honor him with our wealth.

Be sure to check out the parent page that your preschooler brings home each week (or online) so that you know what they learned about in their class. I try to leave it out on the counter or on the kitchen table to review it with my daughter during the week. And, it may help to clarify exactly what the lesson was about! 

Here are a few examples of what some of our preschoolers told their parents about Zacchaeus:

            “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and all he said was please.”

            “Zacchaeus paid our taxes.”

One child told his parent that his sister needed to share with him like Zacchaeus.

            One child asked if she could go climb sycamore trees.

I asked my own daughter why Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree and she said because it was cold. I think she has been hearing that answer from me a lot lately . . . Put your coat on because it is cold, we can’t go outside because it is cold, you can’t wear your flip flops because it is cold.

What did your preschooler learn about Zacchaeus this week?

 - Betsy Zimmerman, Preschool Coordinator

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baptism Weekend at Grace

 "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."- Acts 2:38

Baptism weekends are one of my favorite times to be in the worship service. It is a beautiful opportunity to see how God is working in the lives of people in our church community, and their obedience to following His commands.

I remember when I decided to be baptized. I had been following God for about 6 years at that time, after giving my life to Him at the age of 17 at a Young Life camp. I had been baptized as a baby, and always thought that I did not need to be baptized again. It wasn’t until becoming a part of this church, and learning what the Bible says about baptism, that God began to stir in my heart. At first, I started questioning if my baptism as a baby really meant anything at all, because what I was hearing from teaching and studying my Bible was that people would repent of their sins first, and then be baptized. As I learned that baptism was an outward symbol of an inward change in a person’s heart to believe and trust in Jesus, I realized that my baptism as a baby was not actually a result of what God had done in my heart. The point when I gave up my life to follow Christ came 17 years after being baptized as a baby. At this point, the questions going through my head turned into a desire to be baptized again to show I believed in Jesus as my Savior.

This began the process of having the courage to actually follow through with being baptized. Through this process, I came to understand that I was struggling with an obedience issue. I had my own idea of what I wanted my baptism to be like, who I wanted to be there, but it eventually came down to the fact that God had revealed what He wanted me to do, and through faith I needed to obey Him. So Easter weekend in 2007, I was baptized.

This weekend, we have baptisms at each of our campuses at Grace. I feel blessed to be able to hear many stories of changed hearts and lives, and see the faithfulness to God's commands lived out. Praise God for pursuing hearts and changing lives!

- Nicky Darling, Elementary Coordinator

Friday, January 21, 2011

Preschool Curriculum: God Owns Everything

We are starting a new series for the next three weeks about how God owns everything. We want to stress to our children that everything belongs to God, that nothing is ours, and that God wants us to give freely. As I meditate on these truths I automatically think of the season of life when my children were toddlers and all I heard all day was “That’s mine, give it to me.” In that season, I consistently had to remind my child that the object was not his/hers, but that everything belongs to God and we are just using it. Are WE that much different than our toddler children? Do WE really ever grow out of that mentality?

In this unit, we are trying to teach our children to Be Generous. As we learn about Zacchaeus, the Rich Young Ruler, and the Poor Widow, we will be showing our children what it looks like to “Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). Our children will learn that God commands this of us. It is not about if we want to or not.

As you talk with your children about what they are learning the next few weeks, I challenge you to be an example of this verse and think of some ways that you as a family can be generous with what you have. Allow God to work through you to live out this principle.

- Ivy White, Preschool Development Coordinator

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Daddy Duplicator

It was one of those crazy parenting moments where life was happening so fast and furious that I wasn't sure which way was up. After a long day filled with work, responsibilities, meetings, and tasks on my to-do list, I was feeling tired and behind as I returned home for the evening. Now I love my family like crazy...and as a husband and a parent of three kids, I deeply desire to be fully present and involved in everyone's life and story. So it's not unusual to find myself jumping in with both feet and doing several things at once. But on this particular occasion, given my pre-existing anxiety level and the volume of chaos at home, I was not prepared for the onslaught of excitement, questions, and newly-discovered wrestling moves that were crouching around the corner.

Do you ever have those moments? I bet you do. I was certain that if I heard "Daddy come here," Daddy watch this," or "Daddy look at me" one more time I would be done forever. What was actually a barrage of love from my kids felt like a merciless assault on my personal space and freedom. What were intended to be expressions of gladness that I was finally home where I belonged actually felt like needles poking into my brain, adding to the already progressing headache I was feeling. I was not in a good place; I needed everyone around me to notice it and back off for a moment. Somehow, my youngest son (age 7) did just that.

He must have noticed the look behind my eyes that said, "I am trying to be a man on the outside, but on the inside I'm not sure I can hold it together much longer." He must have momentarily seen that I was needed in 4 different places at once, but just couldn't make it happen. I think he had just released me from a head-lock when he made the comment that I can't quit thinking about. He looked up and said, "You know, it would be really great if we had a Daddy Duplicator machine."

Just the fact that he noticed gave me a lift in my spirit, and I was able to gain some perspective and energy to stay present a little bit more. The longer I thought about his comment, the more thankful I became that I was never intended to be superman. I was never supposed to be able to handle it all on my own. I was reminded that we have a heavenly Father who really can be all things to all people...fully present everywhere at once. What a blessing that we can rely on His strength and His power to do what only He can do in the first place. What a blessing that He is the author of my children's stories, not me. And what a blessing that I must come to the end of myself and my abilities to fully embrace all that He is and wants to be in my life.

Be encouraged as you walk every hour in this adventure of parenting. We have the high privilege and responsibility of showing up and giving all that we have to our children. But when the demand is greater than the supply, we have great news as followers of Jesus. His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

He is their true that pressure is off of me! Hallelujah! Praise God for His promises! Who needs a Daddy Duplicator machine?!

- Ed Sweeny

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Special Needs: Managed or Ministered To?

The mission of Grace Children's Ministry is to assist parents in leading their children toward a Gospel-centered life, to equip volunteers to shepherd children, and to encourage children to grow in Christ by teaching them biblical truths in meaningful ways. We desire to provide an environment where both parents and their children are loved and ministered to, including families with children with special needs.

A few months ago, in November, we hosted a Special Needs Equipping Event in which we provided an informative discussion about how we minister to families with children with special needs. We explained our process of how we try to reach out to these families so that the children can be integrated into our weekend programming, and the parents can have the opportunity to worship and serve in our church. We also provide more information about how we minister to families with children with special needs on our website.

We had a visitor named Amy Fenton Lee, author of The Inclusive Church, and she wrote an article titled "Special Needs: Managed or Ministered To?" after attending our Special Needs Equipping Event. This article is featured in the January 2011 newsletter for The Cory Center for Children's Ministry.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Camp Grace Curriculum: Don't Worry. Trust God.

 This coming weekend in our Camp Grace (1st-4th grade) programming, our elementary campers will be studying from Matthew 6:25-34 about Jesus' teaching on worry. They will examine what it means to worry, and our need to trust God with our lives.

Here is an excerpt from the Leader Preparation for this week's lesson:
"When we worry, we ultimately question and doubt God's sovereignty and goodness. We fall to the temptation to believe that God is not who He says He is, and we must handle our concerns ourselves. The root of worry is a fear that God cannot provide what we need. God has already provided everything we need and showed His love through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He poured out the punishment for our sin on His only Son. We can trust a God who died for us so that we can have eternal life and a restored relationship with Him. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves, and He has a plan that is for our good. Jesus calls us to trust in His sovereignty."
As you go through this week, think about areas in your life that you struggle with worrying. Pray for God to remind you that He is bigger than any worry in your life, and that you can turn your worries into trust in God's sovereignty.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Enjoying God

Do you enjoy God?
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18 

It would be easy to argue different ways in which the word “enjoy” describes our lives, but I think the most important form of enjoyment we should have is in God. While I was in the Bahamas last summer on a Student Ministry mission trip, during our study of the book of Jonah one night, Joseph Dion asked our group of students and leaders if we enjoy God. Take away all the benefits of being a Christian, all the amenities that come with following Christ that make being a believer attractive, and ask yourself if you truly enjoy God for who He is. How excited are you just about God? Do you realize how awesome God is? Joseph posed some weighty questions to make us examine our faith and relationship with God.

Those questions have popped back into my head multiple times since last summer. As I think about whether I enjoy God and what all that encompasses, I realize that rather than “enjoying God” with the focus on Him, I have always pointed the focus on myself and the amount of joy I felt towards life. Joy that God gave me through the Holy Spirit, but joy that was directed toward the people and things in my life rather than at God Himself. Essentially my perspective has been that joy given to me by God was for the purpose of enjoying the life He has given me, rather than simply for the purpose of enjoying Him. I believe He wants us to enjoy our lives and what He has provided, but I think He wants our joy to start with Him.

To enjoy means to take pleasure or satisfaction in; adore; delight (in); love; revel (in). When you enjoy someone or something, it is because that person or thing has great value in your heart. God should have the greatest value in our heart, so we should enjoy Him. What does it look like to enjoy God? I could use each part of the above definition to answer that question – to enjoy God is to take pleasure or satisfaction in, adore, delight in, love, and revel in Him – but I think it goes deeper than that. I think to enjoy God means to take pleasure or satisfaction in Him through learning more about who He is; to adore Him through worshiping Him daily; to delight in Him through giving Him the glory and praise He is worthy to receive; to love Him by marveling at His love and desiring to love as He loves; to revel in Him by being amazed at His power and in awe of His greatness; and lastly, to rejoice purely and solely in God for who He is and what He has done.

John Piper writes, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” As each year comes to an end, we find ourselves asking one another about our resolutions for the new year. Often they involve ideas and desires to make us enjoy our lives and the people in them more. Perhaps we should examine how we can be more satisfied in God by simply enjoying Him more.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

- Nicky Darling, Elementary Coordinator